American television is influencing what we eat

THE GLUT of American television sitcoms and police shows has given British viewers an appetite for US-style foods such as muffins and maple syrup. Supermarkets have noticed the favourite foods of top soap stars such as Roseanne Barr and Jennifer Aniston leave their shelves as fast as they are put out for sale.

Glen Chester, who works for the Co-op supermarket in Holmfirth, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, made his discovery when a customer came into the store asking for soda pop. "I explained to her that soda pop is the American name for soft fizzy drinks such as lemonade and asked her what made her ask for it", he said. "She told me she watches Friends and had seen the actors order it in the cafe featured in the series."

Mr Chester decided that he would make a study of all the American-style foods in the store and find out if customers were influenced by television shows they watch to buy certain foods. To his amazement he found that they were.

People were buying doughnuts to eat at breakfast - an idea they gleaned from the police series NYPD Blue, while their preference for blueberry muffins, cookies and maple syrup as seen in such series as Roseanne, Frasier, Ellen and Hill Street Blues, was quite apparent. Sales of beef burgers even took an upturn after Pulp Fiction was issued on video. Mr Chester, who watches a lot of television and is something of a film buff, asked the store's staff to look out for any changes in sales of American foods. When the in-store cafe put a "maple and pecan plait" on the menu, it was snapped up straight away, while sales of pancakes with maple syrup and milk shakes are exceeding all expectations. "Customers say they want these foods because they have seen them on the television and are curious to know what they taste like," he said.

Food is a major prop in American sitcoms, soaps and detective series. Roseanne is characterised by her kitchen and its wardrobe-sized refrigerator. A sequence barely passes without one of her children or her husband going to the fridge to grab a beer, a Coke, or perhaps a slice of cheesecake. Vast quantities of popcorn, chocolate chip ice cream and peanut butter are consumed in each half-hour episode.

British television viewers seem more inclined to emulate the American way of eating from TV shows. These programmes have a glossy touch whether they are based in a trailer park or in a smart Manhattan apartment. Viewers are not offered much by way of example from the grim reality of our home- grown dramas. Pauline Fowler is rarely seen at the stove in EastEnders, while Pat occasionally dishes a greasy-looking item on to her husband Roy's plate: no wonder he had a heart attack. Instead of British drama focusing on the table, it centres on the pub. In the middle of a murder case, Inspector Morse and his sidekick Lewis would stop off at an idyllic country pub for a beer, while Only Fools and Horses and Coronation Street revolve around the local.

The British have always embraced stylishly packaged goods such as Coke, chewing gum and tomato ketchup, but the Americans are less keen to adopt British staple foods. We might love their southern fried chicken, for instance, but they certainly do not want our pork scratchings.

Glen Chester believes that American television can be a substitute for travelling to the actual place. "In the same way that people become more adventurous with the food they eat on holiday, they want to try things they have seen eaten on imported television programmes."

So will the Co-op tag their goods with little reminders of the TV stars' eating habits? Perhaps "Frasier's favourites", "Rachel's raspberry jelly filled bagel" or "NYPD blueberry muffins"? "We have decided to base a whole promotion around American foods and adding an 'as seen in' sticker may encourage our customers to buy more," he said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Advisor - Opportunities Available Nationwide

£15000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to ...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Special Needs Support Worker

£12 - £14 per hour: Recruitment Genius: We are looking for someone to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

£15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence